I finally got my chance to go hands-on with Marvel’s Avengers with this weekend’s beta and ultimately it’s been a mixed bag of highs and lows for me so far.
It’s helpful that Crystal Dynamics structured the beta in such a way as to give players a small slice of the game’s various activities, since you can expect to be doing everything you experience in the beta, just more of it, in the full game. It doesn’t paint the full picture, but it gives you a pretty good idea for what’s in store. With that said, let’s dive in some of the best and worst aspects of the experience thus far.
I’ve largely enjoyed the moment-to-moment gameplay of what I’ve played so far. The individual Avengers are all distinct, but similar enough to be able to switch between fairly easily, and they all capture the essence of what makes them unique. Combat is a little button mashy, but I’ve seen a number of videos from players who have shown some of the more technical ways you can explore the combat systems and I’m sure there will be even more going on there once we have access to full progression trees in the launch game.
We only got to experience a small sample of the story, but I really do like Crystal Dynamics’ use of Kamala Khan as the protagonist as much in practice as I did in concept. Kamala is the ultimate fan insert in the comics: What if all of us lived in a world where we were superhero fans – but those superheroes were actual living people in our world? That was Kamala Khan’s life before she became a superhero herself, but even as a super she still fangirls out when meeting the Avengers. I’d be the same way. Seeing the story unfold through her eyes was an excellent choice. She’s also fun to play, which helps.
Avengers also looks pretty good in terms of visual fidelity, particularly on PC with the high resolution texture option. Characters, environments and visual effects are all on point here.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of iffy stuff that’s got me concerned about Avengers. What sticks out the most to me is the itemization. This is something I harp on with all of these games and Avengers hasn’t done anything to alleviate any of my natural apprehension going into launch.
So far, itemization has been super weak. In most cases, you can just get away with pressing a button that slots in your “best” gear and be on your way. The items just don’t really do a whole lot, and this includes Legendary rarity items, at least from what we’ve seen so far. There is an additional Exotic tier, which isn’t dropping in the beta, so it’s possible there will be some great build defining items coming out of Exotics, but items need to be fun to chase in a game like this and they just mostly feel inconsequential so far. I don’t really get excited about anything I pick up, and not just because it’s a beta and I won’t be keeping it. I’m also not even sure what the point of playing on higher difficulties is at this point. Do you get more or better loot? I don’t know.
There’s also an absolute mess of currencies used to power up items that I haven’t even bothered to try and wrap my head around yet. These currencies should probably be simplified before launch. Oh, and they are a pain to pick up, too. If you smash a box that drops them you actually have to wait for them to become active before you can pick them up. Avengers doesn’t move at the kind of pace that really allows for this and it’s just highly annoying.
The experience also got very samey, very early. You mostly fight the same enemies in similar areas and maybe that’s just the way they’ve structured the beta, but it got kind of old already. I’m going to have to grind a lot of this content in the full game, so I hope there’s enough variety there. Drop Zones are also almost comically short. I know they’re supposed to be short, but pacing could be improved.
And then there’s the art style. I’ve made peace with it at this point, but I just really don’t think it does the game any favors. Going for a more realistic art style just begs the unfavorable comparisons to the characters’ MCU counterparts, but it also reminds me of the pre-MCU games made in the past when these characters didn’t have real life actors representing them in the role and developers just kind of translated what they would look like in a more realistic art style. It’s kind of hit-or-miss when it doesn’t have to be. I don’t think CD needed to go full on cel-shaded comic book style like Ultimate Alliance 3, but something closer to say, Marvel Heroes, would’ve yielded better results.
This issue really hit for me when I saw Black Widow’s “Fear Itself” costume in-game. I didn’t even realize it was actually supposed to be her Fear Itself costume when I first saw it. It’s got the same linework, but this is supposed to be a bit more exciting of a suit, with glowing lines and wicked swords in lieu of her batons. I don’t feel this bodes well for the game’s interpretations of characters’ more creative costumes in the future. It gives me the sense that the super realistic art style is holding the game back.
It’s likely true that this beta is branched off of a months old build at this point, but this is the version of the game the studio decided to show off to the world. On both on consoles and PC, it just doesn’t run very well and it’s rife with bugs. My powerful system with a 2080 TI manages to brute force it and run pretty OK most of the time, but I do get some drops and it doesn’t feel as smooth as it should. People all over are having much worse luck than I am with less powerful rigs.
In terms of bugs, I’ve dealt with tons of crashes and matchmaking has been spotty or barely functional at best. The beta just has not been a good look for the game on the technical side of things.
Also, let me take this moment to complain about HDR for the few of us out there with HDR monitors on PC. If you’re going to implement HDR in your PC games, do it right or don’t do it at all. HDR in Avengers looks like other terrible implementations on PC such as Metro Exodus, Resident Evil 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2. It just looks washed out.
What’s your take on the beta so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!